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The Daily Tar Heel

Rivalry Preview: The numbers that have defined UNC men's basketball's season so far

UNC junior guard Caleb Love (2) shoots a three-pointer in the Dean Smith Center on Jan. 21, 2023, against the N.C. State Wolfpack.

In a game defined by numbers, three in particular have stood out for the North Carolina men's basketball team this season. Here is a look at several stats that have defined UNC's 15-6 start to the year.

12.52 bench points per game - ranked 340th nationally

The Tar Heels have been known to rely heavily on their starters, but to this point in the year, there has been a significant drop-off in impact when head coach Hubert Davis turns to his bench.

Behind an experienced group of starters, the next six leading scorers — Puff Johnson, D’Marco Dunn, Seth Trimble, Tyler Nickel, Jalen Washington and Dontrez Styles — have far fewer minutes under their belts.

It’s no secret that the Tar Heels still rely on heavy minutes from their stars. UNC is the only team in the ACC with three scorers ranked in the conference's top 10 — RJ Davis, Caleb Love and Armando Bacot. Pete Nance has also been a reliable option, as he’s currently averaging nearly 11 points per game.

It’s been a while since the bench has truly made an impact. In early December, first-years Trimble and Nickel combined for 14 points at Virginia Tech. But since then, any sign of that composure and confidence has vanished in the secondary unit.

18.4 free throws made per game - ranked No. 3 nationally

In his time at the helm of the North Carolina program, Hubert Davis has pushed his players to attack the basket rather than settling for outside shots. 

This year, the team has gotten to the line consistently, as almost a quarter of UNC’s points this year have come at the charity stripe. The Tar Heels rank third nationally in free throws made and sixth in free throws attempted per game. 

Along with being the team’s leading scorer, Bacot leads UNC in trips to the line and has converted on 97 of his 144 attempts. Davis, while not logging as many attempts as Bacot, leads the conference in free-throw percentage with an 88 percent clip. Should North Carolina find itself slightly ahead of Duke in a late-game scenario, the Tar Heels will have confidence in their ability to ice the game away when the Blue Devils start fouling.

10 second-half points per game for Caleb Love

Similar to last year’s postseason run, Love has been known for his late-game production in his junior season. 

The high-volume scorer is averaging 6.1 first-half points per game, as opposed to 10 second-half points per game. So far, he’s had four games with 15 or more second-half points.

The Tar Heels can often credit their offense’s successes — or shortcomings — to Love’s inconsistency.

Love ranks third amongst all ACC players in minutes played and has taken almost 25 percent of the team’s shots, despite the fact that he’s had nine games in which he’s shot 20 percent or worse from downtown.

Love's second-half explosions played a large role in the Tar Heels advancing to the national title game, and his late dagger over Mark Williams ultimately sent the Blue Devils home in the Final Four. If the game comes down to the wire on Saturday, Love could be tasked with carrying the offensive load once again.  


@dthsports |

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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.